Book Review: Professors’ Guide to Getting Good Grades In College

Professors’ Guide to Getting Good GrAdes in College

By Lynn F. Jacobs, Ph.D., and Jeremy S. Hyman, M.A.

  • The inside scoop on how professors really grade
  • Techniques for acing both exams and papers
  • Tips for moving from a B to an A (and a C to a B)
  • How to get top grades from tough professors

Collins (June 27, 2006) ISBN-10: 006087908

This how-to book by two college teachers belongs in every student’s bathroom. Nope, I don’t mean that you should give the guide the royal flush, but do find it a prominent spot on your lavatory reading rack, where frosh-to-be or even current collegians can digest it in small doses.

Jacobs and Hyman offer a host of common-sense tips on making the most of college classes, but I fear that the profs could be preaching to the choir. Stellar scholars who were born with this info already in their DNA will devour it, while those who need it most may never crack the cover. Ergo the powder-room approach. That is, although authors do an admirable job of adding pizzazz to potentially tiresome topics, this book is best read in short sittings.

Five sections cover 15 chapters:

  • The Start
  • The Class
  • The Exam
  • The Paper
  • The Last Month

Brief bathroom-friendly segments include Myths (e.g., “It’s bad to be a grade-grubber”), Q – A’s (“Should I consider taking a course with a professor who’s reputed to be a very hard grader?”); Lists (“6 Best and Worst Reasons for Dropping a Course”), and Anecdotes (e.g., “Jeremy Remembers When …”) Each chapter ends with a concise, helpful “Review Section.”

For students about to take the leap from high school to college, this book offers a valuable peek at what to expect. For those of us with many reunions already under our (ever-expanding belts), it can be hard to remember that typical collegiate terminology (“lecture,” “discussion,” “seminar”) can be unfamiliar fare for 18-year-olds. And those who have never been formally taught study skills such as note taking and test taking should find the authors’ no-nonsense tips quite useful. (“Excellent note taking is like swimming. You should come up for air only between strokes, and then only for brief moments. When you’re in class you should aim to spend all your efforts on note taking-not checking your e-mail, instant messaging, planning your evening activities, reading the school newspaper, or, worst of all, just sitting back and vegging out.”)

Although Jacobs and Hyman may be overly optimistic that their target audience will have the time and inclination to add another 330+-page tome to their to-do lists, they’re wise enough to write with sufficient humor to engage those who take a shot. (“Don’t view class participation as a competitive sport. The point here is to share your ideas, not beat down your classmates” or “It’s always best to get advice right from the horse’s mouth. Just make sure you’re going to the right horse. If your test was grade by a TA, be sure to talk to that TA-not some other TA you might like better, and certainly not the professor …”)

So try the bathroom reading-rack gambit, and, if you hide those mildewed back issues of Cosmo Girl, Sports Illustrated, and People, and leave only this guide in their stead, your college-bound children may actually peruse it.